Thursday 16 August 2012

Cops fired tear gas with intention to harm, says Bersih

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 —  Police fired tear gas with the intention of harming participants of the April 28 rally for free and fair elections here, and used excessive force to make arbitrary arrests, the Bersih electoral reforms group said today.

The allegation was made by Bersih leaders today in a report submitted to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and was backed by video and other documentary evidence.
"The police fired tear gas canisters directly at the crowd, causing individuals to be hit by tear gas canisters. A participant was hit by a tear gas canister when a police officer shot a tear gas canister at him within a five metre distance to stop him from recording events taking place at the rally.
"Another woman who was attempting to escape from tear gas was hit by two tear gas canisters when police officers fired tear gas canisters at her and other participants at a 10 metre distance which caused her to be hit by two tear gas canisters.
"In addition, we have footage that shows a tear gas canister flying low at a crowd which hit a man who fainted from the impact. This clearly illustrates that tear gas was fired with the intention to harm participants," Bersih said in its report.
The group added that tear gas was also fired in such a way that it led to participants being boxed in to narrow spaces and prevented them from being able to disperse quickly.
Bersih added that the police used indiscriminate, disproportionate, unjustified and excessive use of force against participants who largely did not display any act of provocation or misbehaviour.
"A video by a participant depicts a policeman grabbing a young man in a Bersih shirt and pulling him away from a small crowd. Other policemen then join in and assault the man, who eventually manages to run away.
"Another video shows a traffic policeman aiming his gun at protestors who were then forced to move towards Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman which was filled with tear gas. An eyewitness at the Sogo shopping mall saw other police officers nearby who did not stop the traffic policeman and instead went after protestors.
The Bersih report added that participants who were having meals at restaurants were also arrested or assaulted.
"One individual was eating at a restaurant at the Masjid Jamek area at around 7.20pm when a few police officers pulled him out of the restaurant and beat him.
Thousands of Malaysians gathered in the city on April 28 to mount a protest demanding free and fair elections.
The demonstration turned chaotic after police fired tear gas and protesters were unable to disperse because of the huge crowds choking the narrow streets.
Suhakam is currently conducting an inquiry into the allegations of police violence.

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